I’m a travel nerd - I love to plan my next trip, whether it's a visit to one of my favorite theme parks, a cruise, or a destination from my bucket list. I’m also an introvert – spending lots of time with groups of people I don’t know, where I have to be “on” all the time, can quickly drain my energy, and I need time to recover or else I get overwhelmed and cranky. (This doesn’t mean I don’t like new people or can’t talk to strangers – it just means that I need some recharge time after doing a lot of it). These may seem to be incompatible, because travel - especially to popular theme parks, or on cruise ships with shared common spaces, or well-known bucket list landmarks – are often not quiet destinations with lots of personal space available. Actually, it's not incompatible at all - if you know how to plan for it.
First of all, think about the destination you're visiting. There are a lot of decisions made early in the trip planning process that can help make your trip more introvert-friendly. Consider centrally-located hotels that make it easy to go back for a break, if needed. If you're going on a cruise, different cruise lines tend to have different personalities and energy levels, so look for one that has a more low-key vibe, or at least a nice mix of high-energy and low-key.
Next, do what you can to avoid crowds. Crowds can vary widely depending upon the time of year, and different destinations sometimes have different high-crowd or low-crowd periods. If you can, try to choose a time of year that is historically less busy to cut down on the stress of large crowds. Even if you are visiting during a busier time of year, you can minimize time spent in large crowds by visiting early, if possible, and by taking breaks.
Speaking of breaks, it’s been helpful for me to take breaks and plan some downtime. Most of the time I do fine with crowds of people if I’ve had some quiet time to rest and relax. If I'm on a theme park vacation, I'm typically staying at an on-site hotel that is either walking distance from the parks or has easy transportation, so I'll go back to my hotel for some down time. On a cruise, this is easy to do because my stateroom is only a short walk or elevator ride away.
You'll also want to be aware of situations that can sometimes cause extra stress, especially if you're highly introverted. Some theme park dining or show experiences have some expected audience participation that you may want to avoid if this isn't your idea of fun. Also, most cruise lines have a traditional dining set up where you are assigned a table for dinner, and you may be sharing your table with other guests, especially if you're a smaller party. If, like me, you prefer not to eat dinner with people you don’t know, you can request a table with just your group, which the cruise lines will do their best to accommodate. Some cruise lines, such as Norwegian Cruise Line, do not use the traditional dining model, and instead have a dining approach more like visiting restaurants on land, so you’ll always have your own table. Others, such as Princess Cruises, have an option to dine on your own time outside of the traditional scheduled dining times, so again, you’ll have your own table.
There are some activities that are often not easy for introverts, but that we want to do them anyway. For instance, meeting characters on a theme park vacation is a lot of fun, though it tends to be something I only do with characters I really want to meet – but, my introvert self tends to stress over these things, even though they seem simple and straightforward. If you know that you (or your child) could be stressed out or overwhelmed by certain experiences, even if it’s something you want to do, plan ahead for them and make sure you’re well-rested before trying them. For other experiences, like visiting a destination you've never visited before, or going in to a new port on a cruise, can also be stressful, so plan ahead for them and ask your travel agent about what to expect so you feel more prepared for new experiences.
Some of this stuff may seem obvious, but it took me a while to learn as I traveled more. I’m an introvert and my main travel buddy is too, but it took me some time to get in a groove that worked for us. There’s a lot of pressure with travel to go, go, go and see as much as possible – but, we’ve found that taking breaks and avoiding stuff that we know will stress us out makes for a much happier vacation.
Whether you're introverted, extroverted, or somewhere in between, our travel pros are here to help!